Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Craftsman can be Smarter than a University Graduate

The last post that I shared with you was concerned with the way in which certain universities promote study programs that are not valid – through this I am usually referring to the fact that they rank very poorly when it comes to the integration of their graduates into the workforce, plus they are not able to produce scientific literature that presents objective viewpoints, and that is backed with solid proof.

In this post I won’t stress the topic of validity, or lack thereof certain study programs, but rather to present my blunt opinion on a huge misconception that university try desperately to popularize in order to gain even more candidates for their Bachelors, Masters of Doctoral programs. Nowadays it seems that more and more people think that a degree makes somebody worthwhile, and I see a trend that tries to demonize practical professions over those that are usually labeled as being more “intellectually challenging”.

Even if this trend is present both in the East and West, the way in which it manifests itself is quite different. The nations of the ex-communist East had experienced a boom in college attendance after the fall of the regime, this boom is usually determined by some specific social factors that are present across this region. First of all, the communist era was mainly associated with the glorified image of the worker, of the laborer, if we take a look in to the family history of many individuals we can see very clearly that their parents came from rural backgrounds, and settled in to the cities in order to supply the booming urban centers with the necessary workforce for the developing industry.

Most of the people of their families that constitute the older generations mainly practiced “professions”, jobs that necessitated more manual labor than intellectual effort. After the fall of the regime, the generations that were born immediately after were encouraged to practice professions that were more “office-based”. This eventually generated a boom, in some ex-communist nations, of diploma mills, or a diversification of programs. The diversification of the programs that were offered by local universities, state of privately owned, did not take into consideration the profile of the local and national economy.

Thus many universities introduced programs, most of which were copy/pasted from the West, that had interesting names, but were of no actual use when it came to making yourself more tempting for the local employers. “Communication and PR”, “International Relations”, “Social Work”, and “Management” are just few of the newcomers that didn’t manage to assure those that graduated a chance of a better life.  Maybe it’s not so much that these programs were not associated with a well defined niche, but more that they granted too many diplomas to too many people – the result was a inflation of graduates from certain programs. This is phenomena played in the same way with Law degrees, especially in Romania.

In the end, the result is the following:

-          a big segment of the youth that wasted 3-4 years in earning a degree that proved useless;
-          a segment of people that will be theoretically overqualified for the positions that they will fill – many of the graduates of these programs work nowadays jobs that  don’t require a university degree;

- a higher decrease in overall life satisfaction – due to disconnection between expectations and reality;

- a distorted image for the academic area which experienced an inflation of graduates;

- a decrease in the “practical recognition” of many degrees – not referring to being recognized by authorized state institutions that regulate university management and curricula – but more the fact that there is an increasing number of employees that are not willing to hire people that have low ranking degrees.

Now going to the next point, the idea that many university degrees are more intellectually challenging is a huge misconception. I will prove this with a brief comparison:

Women’s Studies

-          mainly centered around declarative knowledge;

-          there is a higher chance of mechanically assimilating information without understanding very clearly the connection between many concepts;

-          it is not a creation-based degree, is easier for a product to be judged and compared by outsiders than a bag of raw information that is loosely connected

-          there is not a very step-by-step approach to the gain of knowledge, the information and the content of the courses is sometimes quite loosely connected, because of this there is not huge need for learning each course religiously in order to have panoramic view of the whole field;

-          there’s no particular field that it directly addresses to, or well defined niche – as a result there is no pressure from a specific group of employees regarding the quality and coherency of the program. WS programs do not constitute primary sources from which certain industries collect their employees;

-          Many of the works produced serve an internal network – are mainly bought by other WS students and academic staff.

Wood carving  and carpentry

-          mainly based on procedural knowledge;
-  its understanding stresses a step-by-step approach, all the knowledge is closely interconnected;
-          it serves a well define industry and is influenced by the demands that come from it;

-          the products that are created can be easily compared and analyzed by outsiders,
 it blends visual, logic and artistic intelligence;
-          knowledge is achieved through practical activities;
-          degrees and certification are less important than the skills themselves;
-          it can serve various industries, the need for adapting skills and techniques is higher.

With all of this being said, we should finally understand that certain university degrees can be in fact less challenging than certain types of craftsmanship, due to the wider range of skills that you need to develop in order to perform well in practicality-based professions

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